What is the term for the tendency to care more about problems that we perceive as directly affecting us? Or, relatedly, the tendency to show more empathy for people's problems when we perceive the people to be more similar to us?

There must be academic terminology related to this. I have tried Googling with different keywords, but I haven't found any relevant results.

  • 2
    Would "self-interest" fit?
    – Steve Bird
    Feb 14, 2019 at 11:24
  • Hey, mind your own business. : ) Feb 16, 2019 at 14:01
  • Which do you want, directly affecting us or when people are similar? These seem like different concepts to me. Nov 6, 2020 at 19:12
  • Isn't this called "being human"?
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 6, 2020 at 23:48
  • Economists call it rational self-interest
    – Jim
    Nov 7, 2020 at 6:36

3 Answers 3


If you're looking for a philosophical term for the belief or behaviour, egoism fits:


1 a : a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action
b : a doctrine that individual self-interest is the valid end of all actions
2 : excessive concern for oneself with or without exaggerated feelings of self-importance

In such beliefs or behaviour, if something doesn't concern the person directly, they care less about it.

Similarly, if they see somebody else as being like them, they may have more interest in how things affect the other person because it might have a similar affect on them. To an egoist, how the other person is affected would be taken as a kind of early warning system—similar to the canaries miners used to take into caves to see if they needed to worry about breathable air.

Note that in this case, empathy doesn't equate to sympathy, but merely practicality and intellectual interest.


I came up with "relatable" and the idiom "hit home". I think either of these could be used in an academic context. They both address "self-interest" in a broader sense.

As an alternative, there are many words that can be made using "self-" as a suffix. "self-association", for one, would seem very fitting for academic purposes.

I did find one final possibility that might better express an academic term for the "self" aspect of the human condition. A term used in Psychotherapy is "self-centric" (or "self-centrism" as a noun). It is better defined and distinguished at the last link below.






  • I appreciate the feedback, but I am looking for a term that encompasses/defines one/either of those tendencies, rather than an adjective that describes them.
    – Kelly
    Feb 14, 2019 at 12:12
  • Do you mean in the sense of "relatability" (as a noun)? Something can also have "self-interest" (as a noun). Or, do you mean "the tendency" (human condition) to care more when something involves self in the equation?
    – user22542
    Feb 14, 2019 at 12:35
  • Hi Kelly. if "selfishness", "empathy", or "sympathy" would work, I could add them to the answer.
    – user22542
    Feb 14, 2019 at 12:51
  • I do mean the "tendency" (human condition). I imagine there must be an academic term that refers to this.
    – Kelly
    Feb 14, 2019 at 13:36
  • Thanks for clarification. I added one more. Lots of possibilities there.
    – user22542
    Feb 14, 2019 at 14:27

It is sometimes called nimbyism.

NIMBY = "Not in my back-yard".

  • 2
    I've often heard the term in a more specific sense to refer to a person objecting to structures when they would be placed in the objector's own community, especially if that person otherwise supports them or benefits from them: affordable housing, nuclear plants, waste sites, prisons, wind plants. Feb 14, 2019 at 15:06
  • 1
    @TaliesinMerlin, I've only heard it used in that more specific sense.
    – Juhasz
    Feb 14, 2019 at 15:50

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